Friday, December 27, 2013

Looking forward to the New Year

As I sat on my couch Thursday, staring at my Christmas tree, I had one thought in mind: “That thing’s got to come down.”


As much as I love Christmas, it’s passed. And every year on Dec. 26, I get itchy with the desire to pack up all the Christmas decorations and put them back into the attic until next November. What was a thing of beauty just a few days ago is now old hat and it’s got to go. On to the next thing.


What’s next? Why 2014, of course.


I’m a sucker for dates. I’m not sure why, but I remember dates. Holidays especially. I will remember this Christmas for years to come. Just like last Christmas and the ones before that. New Years? I remember exactly where I was, what I did and with who for New Years dating back 20 years. But even regular dates. I have a good memory for certain things. I guess that’s good. Maybe. Maybe not.


So Jan. 1, 2014 is a mere five days away. I have no idea what it will hold. But I plan to make it memorable. Just as I plan to make all of 2014 memorable. Of course, 2013 was memorable in its own right. Some good. Some not so good. And, frankly, there are things I forgot as soon as they happened — like what I had for dinner on any given day.


Why is it that I can remember Super Bowl XXV stats but can’t remember what I had for lunch. Heck, some days, I can’t remember if I ate lunch. At least when my daughters are home, I can ask them: “Hey, kids, did I eat today?” Usually the answer is “No, dad.”


So in 2014, I’m going to try to remember to eat. And maybe even try to remember what I eat. That’s a good goal, right?


I’ve mentioned before that I’ve never been one to make resolutions for the New Year. But I actually have some this year. For one, I resolve to get out of my comfort zone. I’ve been complacent and lazy in certain aspects of my life. No more. I’m going to get out of the house and remind the world what’s so great about Scott Leffler. Or maybe I’ll let them remind me. Probably the latter.


Last year in the column leading up to New Year’s Eve, I mentioned that I had lost a lot of weight. This year I gained some of it back. But I’m going to take it back off again. That’s not a resolution specific to 2014. I joined the YMCA in October and have been enjoying my regular visits.


I resolve to keep writing. I’ve always thought of myself as a writer, but I’m going to actually be one next year. It’s what I’m going to do with my down time. And by the end of 2014, I’m going to have a novel published. I said it here. Keep me to it.


I turn 40 next year. Kind of a big deal. I look back and have little to show for it save for two incredibly awesome daughters. That’s going to change. The year 2013 was the year of complacency. Next year is going to be the year of progress.


I’ll let you know next December how it went.

Scott Leffler is a dreamer. But he’s not the only one. Follow him on Twitter @scottleffler.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Working with others has its ups and downs

I’ve always considered myself a good team player. By myself, I can be a mess. But in a group, I truly excel. I think it’s because I want to do my best for others.

As an example, when my girls are home, the house is cleaned and I cook dinner every night. When they’re not around? Well, let’s just say that when they’re at their mom’s the dishes tend to pile up and my typical nightly meal consists of leftovers or coffee. Both if I’m lucky. In cases of extended absences, my oldest daughter will text me reminding me to eat. I usually head straight for the fridge as I text back my thanks.

Sometimes doing things by yourself, though, is the only way to ensure things get done as you had imagined they would. If you have a vision of how life should be, there’s nothing that will screw that vision up more quickly than sharing it with someone of a different mindset.

I’ve always thought of myself as a writer, even though for the past few years the only thing I’ve written on a regular basis was this column each week. In 2013, though, I’ve joined forces with two other writers and we’ve really hunkered down to accomplish some things. We’ve had a lot of fun and we’ve written some cool material. It’s inspired me to push harder on that novel I always said I was going to write. And it’s kept me focused in times when I let the dishes pile up, if you know what I mean.

+Craig Bacon, +George Root and I have recently begun an experiment of sorts to hone our writing skills. One of us starts writing a story and then passes it on to the next, who adds to it and passes it on to the third. It goes around in a circle twice and then back to the original writer who finishes it off and fixes Craig’s spelling.

Our most recent work was something that I started called “Peppermint the Christmas Penguin.” It was meant to be a heartwarming tale of an unemployed Penguin living in Los Angeles and trying to land a job as a movie star and/or save Christmas. That’s how it started out at least.

I shipped it off to George who sent it to Craig and then back to me. By the time I got it back, I knew it was not going the be the holiday classic I had hoped for. By the time we were finished it was more Tim Burton than James Stewart.

See, sometimes even with the best of intentions, life just gets in the way.

But — the added challenge of trying to figure out how to write around the obstacles we create for each other (and the fun of writing each other into a corner) will eventually make us better writers. In a few years when we’re all promoting our best sellers, I’ll be able to afford someone to come do my dishes and remind me to eat.

Scott Leffler undergoes daily therapy sessions called “writing.” Sometimes he posts the results of those sessions to Twitter where you can find him @scottleffler.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

The Olympics, Mandela and freedom, oh my

Watching last Friday's episode of Grimm the other day, I was really happy.

Yeah, sure the episode itself was good. I've always like Grimm's Fairy Tales and the wesen are always cool. Especially that hot blonde Hexenbiest. But I digress. (already, I know)

No. The thing that excited me was the five golden interlocking rings under NBC's famous peacock logo. There's only 62 days until the 2014 Winter Olympics start. Did you hear me? Sixty-two days!

See, for me the Winter Olympics are like a Christmas on the Fourth of July. The Summer Olympics remind me much more of Thanksgiving. Of course, that's not a good thing from my perspective. But we've got years to worry about that waste of time. The Winter Olympics is in a mere 62 days.

Basically the Winter Olympics is a bunch of sliding -- skiing, bobsledding, luge, ski jumping, snowboarding -- and controlled slipping -- ice skating, hockey, speed skating, curling, and cross country skiing. Any nine-year-old boy has perfected every single one of these sports either on a hill in winter or on their parents' linoleum kitchen floor.

In other words, for two and a half weeks in February I get to relive my youth vicariously through Olympic athletes. In 62 days I'll be nine again. How could I not be excited?

•••

The funny thing is at 39, I'm not so good at controlled sliding. On my way to work from my girlfriend's house on Thanksgiving, I took a spill on some ice. Ended up in the hospital — for the second time this year.

I'm also not so good in the kitchen. Cooking a turkey over the weekend, I burned myself pretty good. Then I ran a serrated knife half way through my thumb. I should have gone for stitches but I refuse to go the Emergency Room twice in a week.

I'm still waiting to figure out what exactly it is I'm good at. When I do, I'll let you know.

•••

I’d be wrong not to touch on the passing of Nelson Mandela Thursday. The anti-apartheid icon and father of modern day politics in South Africa was 95 years old.

That said, I cannot do justice to his life, so I will simply share a quote:

"After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb."

Mandela finally climbed his last hill. But thanks to him, he left a path for others to follow.

•••

A new documentary called “Cash for Kids” delves into the saga that occurred in Pennsylvania during the tenure of one Mark Ciavarella, who used to be a judge and is now an inmate.

Ciavarella was convicted in 2011 of literally selling kids into the prison system in exchange for kickbacks from the privately run operation. In all, he netted $1.2 million in the scheme. And in the end thousands of convictions were thrown out.

I’m not going to judge the concept of privately run prisons, although I admit, I think it’s a bit peculiar. But I will remind people that power corrupts. And absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Fortunately we live in a country with checks and balances and Ciavarella got his just desserts. Kind of. I don’t think 28 years is enough. He should have to serve 10 days for every day served by any of the kids he ever convicted wrongfully and sent away.

There is nothing more immoral than depriving someone of their liberty.

Or as Nelson Mandela would say, “There is no such thing as part freedom."

Scott Leffler would earn gold if there were an Olympic sport for injuring yourself. Sadly for him, there’s not. Follow his non-award-winning injuries on Twitter @scottleffler